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Poverty report: 26 individuals own the same as poorest 50% of humanity

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Poverty report: 26 individuals own the same as poorest 50% of humanity
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Wealth has become more concentrated in the past year with just 26 people owning the same as the poorest 50% of the entire human race, indicating that fortune really does favour the rich.

The figures were published by Oxfam on Monday as part of a report on the world's wealth, which says deep divisions in gender equality and poor public services are key factors in the growing gap between rich and poor.

According to the report, in the more than 10 years since the 2008 financial crisis, the number of billionaires has doubled.

In the last year alone, the wealth of billionaires increased €2.2 billion every single day, with a new person becoming a billionaire every two days.

This compares to almost 50% of the world's population who live on less than €4.90 per day.

"The way our economies are organised means wealth is increasingly and unfairly concentrated among a privileged few while millions of people are barely subsisting," Matthew Spencer, Oxfam's director of campaigns and policy, said in a statement released with the report.

"It doesn’t have to be this way – there is enough wealth in the world to provide everyone with a fair chance in life."

What are the key points and suggestions from the report?

Public services

Significant investment into public services, such as universal healthcare and education, can help reduce poverty and inequality, and also reduce the growing gap between rich and poor, the report found.

Access to even the most basic education could positively affect millions of people -- the report estimated that more than 170 million people could escape extreme poverty if all children graduated school with basic reading skills.

"Universal social protection and public services played a pivotal role in state- and nation-building in Western Europe," it said. "Trying to target the poorest people often has the opposite effect, with many of those who should benefit being left out."

Taxes on the rich

Euronews spoke to Max Lawson, Oxfam's head of inequality, who said "the entire global economy is benefitting those at the top."

"The richest people in the world are paying lower rates of tax than they have in decades."

In the UK, the poorest 10% are paying a higher proportion of their incomes in tax than the richest 10%, the report also noted.

In order to fund an increase in public services, Oxfam recommended placing tax increases on the world's richest population.

A 0.5% tax increase on the world's richest 1% could fund the schooling of every child currently out of education and could provide lifesaving healthcare for 3.3 million people.

To put that into a little more perspective, the world's richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, could cover Ethiopia's entire health budget with just 1% of his fortune.

But this proposed tax increase could prove difficult to implement while many continue to evade the laws in their countries.

The European Union has specifically passed new legislation to prevent tax dodging, but the recent release of the Paradise Papers and Panama Papers demonstrate there is still a long way to go.

Globally, "the super-rich are hiding [more than €6.5 trillion] from tax authorities and dodging an estimated [€175 billion] in annual tax revenues," the report said.

Reduce gender inequality

Oxfam also noted a correlation between countries with a greater wealth gap and greater gender inequality, suggesting if you close one, you can close the other.

"Economically unequal countries are countries where women and men are more unequal too. Societies in which the gap between rich and poor is much lower are those in which women are treated more as equals," the report said.

Women are the most affected by public service cuts, as they generally dominate the teaching and health professions around the world.

In Europe alone, public spending cuts after the financial crisis in areas such as maternity and paternity leave, and government-funded pre-schools, meant women bore the brunt of the effects.

However, Oxfam's report found that the now-unpaid hours women spend on domestic tasks would actually be a huge moneymaker.

If a single company took over the hours women spend on looking after home and family, the company would have an annual turnover 43 times the turnover of Apple Inc.

The report was released ahead of the start of The World Economic Forum in Davos tomorrow (Tuesday), which is attended each year by the leaders in politics and business.